Designer: Reiner Knizia
Odd Socks, aka Relationship Tightrope, aka Yin Yang, aka Drahtseilakt, aka Zen Master is a logical choice for a DIY remake. The game is a deck of cards and the components are few. I previously owned Relationship Tightrope and didn’t think much of it. But times change, the composition of my gaming group changed and having a child means my gaming selection also changed. It certainly makes me appreciate games that are good enough to transcend the age barrier: Easy enough for kids while not dumbing it down too much for parents.
Among all the remakes for this games, I always found Odd Socks, an obscure Japanese publication with few copies floating around, to be most approachable and thematically apt. Yin Yang actually comes in a close second. That’s because in Odd Socks, the whole purpose of the game is to pair off your red and blue socks won during the course of the game with the goal of ending up with nothing after each hand. Each blue or red sock in your play area when paired, will immediately be returned to the central pool. Thus, a score of zero is the best outcome as you seek to get rid of all your socks (or collect nothing throughout the game).
At the start of each round, a “goal” card will be revealed indicating how many red and blue socks are up for grabs. Players then select and simultaneously play a single numbered card from their hand. Any number that is highest among the cards played will get all the red socks; conversely, the lowest number will receive blue socks. All other numbered cards that are in between will score nothing. Card numbers in play usually depend on player count, such that a 3 player game will have 30 cards (10/player) shuffled and dealt randomly. To provide a little unpredictability in the game, the deck contains two “wild cards”. When revealed, they will make the next goal card from the deck score either the highest or lowest value and not both. In this way, you can’t always plan your moves perfectly. For example, you may have collected 8 red socks in the previous round hoping to cancel them out with 8 blue socks when that goal card is revealed. Well, if the blue wild card is paired with the 8 goal card, then you won’t be able to get those 8 blue socks.
The cool thing is that the game always elicits some loud moaning and groaning when the card distribution does not conform to expectations. You might be play a 12 hoping to be right in the middle of the pack, only to find out that it is the lowest number. Obviously, luck of the draw matters, but being able to anticipate how cards will be played and which cards are already played matter just as much. Basically, like most Knizia gems, you must take into account the human element – which is often unpredictable and illogical. As you can imagine, the game plays quickly. The rules also recommend you play multiple rounds to even out the luck.
Odd Socks is very similar to Hols der Geier, another simple high-low type card game. While that game features a fixed deck of cards for everyone and only one goal card each round, this one creates a little bit more chaos. You cannot really plan ahead too much, but it’s more important to get a feel what people are aiming to get each round: either red or blue socks, or they just want to avoid collecting anything by staying in the middle of the pack. It’s simple, short and entertaining – perfect for a DIY.
Final word: Good
7 years 6 months: Decent filler that has gotten some attention. Honestly, this was more a fun father-daughter arts and crafts activity We enjoyed drawing and decorating the tiles with different socks. I think it sits very well alongside all the other light Knizia fillers. Not sure she can differentiate or have a preference for most of them, but I do think Penguin Party is still one of her favorites. I do think she may like Kariba or Into the Blue more. That said, we will continue to pull this out for the next month and see how it goes. I do recommend this game, no matter what version of the game you mange to snag.